Wallabies flyer centre of attention at Reds
WALLABIES winger Sefa Naivalu has been shuffled into the centres for a Queensland Reds side desperate to employ a power midfield to beat the Stormers.
Coach Brad Thorn has dumped Duncan Paia'aua to the bench to unite Naivalu, at No.13, and Samu Kerevi at inside centre to play the South African side at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
To understand Thorn's rationale you have to rewind to early last season when he first paired Kerevi and Chris Feauai-Sautia in the centres.
Their direct running and big-bodied defence was instrumental to wins over the Bulls and Lions when the two South African sides visited Brisbane.
With Feauai-Sautia (hamstring) being rested for another week, Thorn has done his best to fashion a big centre pairing by using Naivalu's 101kg frame closer to the action.
Naivalu has been used at outside centre in defence by the Wallabies and played a season there in the National Rugby Championship for the Melbourne Spirit.
If nothing else, Naivalu will get the ball in his hands more. He doesn't go searching for it enough so this way he's forced to get involved more.
"There are a couple of factors. We have Samu back at inside centre where we believe he has played his best footy this year," Reds attack coach Jim McKay said.
"Sefa has played No.13 before in his career and it gives us some strong, power go-forward rugby as well as stability in defence to stop them getting over the advantage line."
Naivalu's switch means Jack Hardy, 20, getting his first start on the wing after two cameos off the bench.
The son of former Wallaby Mitch Hardy is an elusive runner and has impressed since joining the squad during the off-season.
A five-week ban for punching in a club game has ripped valuable World Cup audition time from the season of Reds backrower Caleb Timu.
Timu will miss the clash against the Stormers and the lengthy suspension means five lost games in all before he is available to play again in Round 13 against the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne.
It's a headstart he can ill afford to give fellow Wallaby backrow contenders Isi Naisarani, Luke Jones and Jack Dempsey, who were all unavailable when Timu played his two Tests against Ireland last season.
At Monday night's judiciary, Timu copped five weeks for trading punches with Sunnybank centre Nick Kepu (four weeks) in a club appearance for Souths on March 23.
Compounding the problem for the Reds is backrower Angus Scott-Young missing Friday night's game because of the head knock he sustained against the Rebels last weekend.
Playing Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the backrow is cover and it means Harry Hockings starts at lock.
Queensland Reds v Stormers, Suncorp Stadium, Friday, 7pm AEST
1. JP Smith 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa 3. Ruan Smith 4. Izack Rodda 5. Harry Hockings 6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto 7. Liam Wright 8. Scott Higginbotham 9. Tate McDermott 10. Bryce Hegarty 11. Jack Hardy 12. Samu Kerevi (c) 13. Sefa Naivalu 14. Filipo Daugunu 15. Hamish Stewart Reserves 16. Alex Mafi 17. Harry Hoopert 18. Taniela Tupou 19. Angus Blyth 20. Fraser McReight 21. Moses Sorovi 22. Duncan Paia'aua 23. Isaac Lucas
JIM TUCKER'S SUPER RUGBY ROUND UP
Devastated flanker Brad Wilkin is headed for a third knee reconstruction after a crushing end to his promising career move to the Melbourne Rebels.
Wilkin, 23, had fought back from the first two major surgeries to make his Super Rugby debut for NSW last season and win a club title with Sydney University.
Everything was on the up when the Iona College product played five times with the Rebels only to sustain the damage in the recent loss to the Sharks in Durban.
Al Blacks centre Ryan Crotty is heading to a Japanese club but he has burning ambitions to fulfill first with the Crusaders and at the World Cup.
Featuring at the showpiece tournament in Japan this year is a priority for the 44-Test fixture because he wasn't picked for the 2015 World Cup campaign.
A third straight title with the Crusaders is his Super Rugby dream before changing club allegiance to the Kubota Spears in Japan after the World Cup.
How to use Sonny Bill Williams at the World Cup?
It may be that SBW is employed as a super sub a la Kurtley Beale at the 2015 edition.
He proved a game-breaking bench weapon with his burst and offload in contact for the key Blues' try that snuffed out the Stormers' challenge in Auckland last weekend.
The Crusaders horsemen will not feature again this season and it is unlikely the pre-match entertainment will return at all.
The announcement from the Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby comes in the wake of the deadly terror attacks at two Christchurch mosques last month.
The horseriding imagery of medieval Christians from the Crusades was considered inappropriate.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said "maintaining the status quo in terms of the Crusaders name along with the current imagery of knights on horseback is, in our view, no longer tenable".